Synopsis: Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.
As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”
But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.
An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.
Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.
Before I delve into this great story, I want to first tell you how I came upon receiving this novel. Mia Kerick, the author of Love Spell, wrote me one of the nicest emails in the comment section of Mello & June’s blog. She not only took the time to give me some background into her writing career, she went the extra mile to tell me something about herself and about the genre in which she enjoys writing. When I realized what her novel was about, immediately I began thinking, “Umm, I don’t normally read books like this. . .what to do?” I seriously was going to advise Ms. Kerick, ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ but after reading her sales pitch, I had a sudden change of heart. I learned something about myself over the last couple of weeks, and there’s something to be said for an individual’s approach and delivery. I think more people need to look more closely at that. She managed to convince me I needed to read this story and hooked me just from what she wrote in her email. What an impression she made upon me!
I’ve read things about the LGBT community, however, Mia, taught me something about the LGBTQ individuals, which I really had no clue about. For those of you who do not know what LGBT stands for (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). I’ll address the ‘Q’ later in this review.
Chance César is a good looking, witty, outgoing openly gay teen. He makes no excuses for his sexual preference and always has a snappy response for those who think less of him because of it. With his guyliner, lip gloss, fire orange spiky hair and glamorous personality, what’s not to love about him? Hmmph, that’s the sixty-four million dollar question that he and his BFF (Best Friends Forever), Emily, are pondering? He has set his sights on the buff Jasper Donahue, whom Chance wittingly nicknamed Jazz due to his jazzy persona.
Chance and Emily come up with this great plan to capture Jazz’s heart by going online and stumbling across an article that’s entitled “Ten Specifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love With You.” Chance pretty much follows that article to the letter, with a few exceptions, but no worries, ‘cause whatever he can’t do or think of, Emily always has his back.
As Chance goes through life as a teenager, maintaining a job and school, it shouldn’t be surprising that not many of his peers, and some adults, like Chance or the way he carries himself—which is carefree and footloose. Chance loves him some Chance, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw Jazz into the mix. How can he be so flamboyant parading around in high heel pumps and T-shirts with the sassy sayings as “Jesus Hates Figs” or “I kissed a boy and liked it,” without getting scrunched up facial expressions, nasty, rude and insensitive remarks? As much as it may appear he has it going on with an armor exterior to the outside world, Chance has feelings and he hurts inside, so much so he has a major dilemma. He’s confused as to his gender identity. Sometimes he feels like a boy and sometimes he feels like a girl, so how does one go about labeling him or herself? What box do you check off for a person such as Chance? Right. . .if you’re asking yourself that question, imagine Chance’s issue. The ‘Q’ in LBGTQ means ‘questioning.’
There were so many parts of this story where I fell out laughing. This is a romantic comedy young adult (YA) type of novel. Not to give away too much, I have to say I will never quite look at gummy bears the same way again. OMG, I laughed until I cried reading that chapter. That was so damn funny, and there are so many sections of the story that will have your stomach in knots of laughter. What you’ll also find is that there are some very real life issues plagued through the story which really brought the whole thing together for me. Chance César was very real to me. His issues were heartfelt and gut-wrenching at times. I cannot imagine being trapped in a gray area of not knowing what my sexual identity is for myself. Just because you’re born a certain sex, doesn’t mean the individual feels what they were born. Talk about deep rooted issues. Wow!
I learned so much by going through Chance’s rough existence. I never knew anything about the ‘questioning’ aspect in the LBGT community. That was a real eye opener. Chance isn’t that different from anyone else. He loves, bleeds, cries, shows anger, gets frustrated, etc. I was constantly reminded of my teen years and the stupid stuff my friends and I used to do—i.e., the boys I liked or (didn’t like), to all the things I thought were so important, which pales in comparison to my adult life now.
Needless to say, I fell in love with the Chance César character. He’s believable, real and has more guts than a tightrope walker. He’s fearless, funny, extremely intelligent and very quick witted. I suppose being a gay teen, you have to have a thick skin and snappy remarks to keep the haters away from you, but it doesn’t mean the names don’t hurt and seep through one’s psyche. This was an amazing story—very short and directly to the point. The comedy was to die for. Oh my, just thinking of some of the moments and comments Chance made trying to get the love of his life was simply priceless.
So you see, I learned something about myself while reading this story. Chance has guts where I lacked as a teen being different. My BFFs were books and writing. What made me different, you ask? I’ve always been a nerd, and it’s something I used to be ashamed of and embarrassed to admit to myself and had a hard time accepting. When we had school functions honoring the students who showed off their big brains, yours truly never participated. I made the honors list every time and not once would I go up on that stage and claim my trophies or certificates. Why? I was mistreated and hated because I was smart. Hmmph, imagine that! Ashamed to say I had sense and intelligence! (SMH – shaking my head) And it didn’t hurt that I wasn’t too hard on the eyes, so that didn’t score me any brownie points with my female counterparts. My teachers used to tell me every quarter to go up there and get my awards, and I would smile, thank them and bow out gracefully while sitting in the audience watching the others receive their accolades. So many times I wanted to get up there and accept what I earned, but was too fearful of how I would be received. I didn’t want the ridicule, which I was often the recipient of because I was smart and excelled. (Chuckling), I’m so not that girl anymore! Ooh hell no! She’s long gone! I love being a #blackgirlnerd! I’m very comfortable showing off my sex appeal and brains to boot! (LOL)!
This is why Chance hit real close to home for me because a great deal of what he experiences and deals with, I dealt with on a different level, but one thing is for certain, pain is pain damn it! No matter how the hell you slice it—it hurts when people make fun of you just because you’re being who you are. Man takes great pleasure in destroying what he doesn’t understand, but it takes the Chances of the world to stand up and let people know, “yeah, I’m here, I’m queer and I’m not going any damn where!” You have to admire his courage. I know I certainly do and more importantly I respect his courage. Damn! Where was he when I was in school? I’m certain we would have been BFFs. I always gravitated toward the underdog type of person. Boy, I could have used some of that spunk he has way back when.
Mia, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for contacting me and honoring me with your gift of writing. To think I was going to pass because this isn’t a genre I’d normally read, would have been a very foolish thing for me do, and I’m so impressed with your novel and I pray it brings you lots of success because you certainly do deserve it.
Mello & June give Love Spell five stars! If you’ve never read a book like this, you really should give it a try. I’m a fan, Mia Kerick. You Rock!
GET TO KNOW AUTHOR, MIA KERICK
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, CoolDudes Publishing, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.
Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
1. What made you get into writing YA/LGBTQ novels?
Because of my belief in love as a healing force, combined with my own personal experiences with feeling emotionally bullied as a teen, I gravitated toward writing YA LGBTQ romance. I have always loved to read romance. Starting with Jane Eyre in high school literature class, I have long found escape and healing and hope in a romance novel. I enjoyed romance novels so much that I eventually wanted to create my own stories of love. As far as why I write YA LGBTQ romance, I recognize that teens experience a great deal of difficulty in their young lives, which I can relate to to some extent, as I struggled with feeling isolated as a teen. I read about online accounts of LGBTQ teenagers’ struggles and was extremely emotionally affected by. As a result of my compassion for these kids’ plights, I began research into teen understanding and acceptance of their own sexual orientation and gender identity. The combination of my love of romance novels and my desire to help all teens find themselves in YA literature, I found the perfect genre in YA LGBTQ romance.
2. How do you go about researching your material?
For the most part, my research is done through reading. I often start by reading nonfiction books on the topic I am going to be writing about. For example, when I was preparing to write Inclination, my work of contemporary YA LGBTQ Christian fiction, I read God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. I realized that the information and research he was doing was revolutionary and would positively affect the lives of so many Christian LGBTQ teens, but I also knew they may not find a nonfiction book as easily as they would a work of fiction designed for their age group. So I wrote Inclination, knowing that it would put a face and a story to the kind of information that otherwise could be found only in nonfiction books and in online websites. Sometimes, in researching, I speak to people who have gone through similar experiences to those about which I write, and I have even located videos of live interviews of LGBTQ kids expressing their feelings on a variety of topics. In addition, I conduct a great deal of online research prior to writing my novels, which is probably my largest source of information, including reading personal blogs and articles, watching YouTube videos, and visiting different organizations for LGBTQ teens. My research is thorough because I want to get it right. For Love Spell, I conducted a great deal of research about children and teens who experience gender identity confusion. I read many stories of transgender teens who took their own lives. I visited many online organization that support teenagers who experience gender identity confusion. I don’t think you can research too much.
3. Explain to our readers what YA LGBTQ is?
YA LGBTQ is a genre of literature that is focused on meeting the reading needs of Young Adults, which is rather a misnomer, as most of the target readers in YA are actually not adults at all, but are teens. Typically, the YA novels I write are targeted to 13 to 18-years-olds, but at least half of my reading audience is adult, ages 18+. LGBTQ stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer or Questioning. There are many other letters that could, and probably should, be included. In fact, when Chance, the main character in Love Spell, does his own online research into LGBTQ he finds “LGBTQQIAAP+” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual, pansexual, and more), which serves to both further confuse him, as well as comfort him. He realizes that “what he is” may be complicated, but that he is not alone. An interesting aspect is that LGBTQ is not just about one’s sexual identity. It is about one’s gender identity, as well. And the use of LGBTQ was developed because “gay community” did not seem to be inclusive enough for all of the gender and sexual identities out there.
4. Are there any other genres you write in?
I also write Adult M/M romance and New Adult M/M romance. But YA is my favorite; it is where my truest voice can be found.
5. How long does it usually take you to write your novels?
I usually can write a novel in the space of five or six months. First I must conceive of the idea, then I let it “percolate” in my mind as I finish other ventures. I write about three or four chapters, and then I set it aside to percolate some more. When I next come back to it, I am serious and I have a rough idea of an outline and I just write until it is finished. Then I start with the rewriting and editing processes. In all honesty, I’m never satisfied. I could edit and alter and change things forever. I finally have to just say, this is DONE!!!
6. What sets your work apart from other authors in the same genre?
Let’s face it, there are a lot of really good YA authors, but I think that my greatest strength is in my narrator’s voice. Normally, I write in the first person—sometimes present tense and sometimes past—and I really relate to the characters who speak and think in my books. No, it’s more than “relating to” the speakers—I become them. I think there is a part of me that seriously misses “making pretend”, which I did so often and so well as a child, and creating characters, and then becoming them, fills that need in me. So, the genuine teenager in my author’s voice is more real than you know. It is the teenage Mia pretending to be all different kinds of teenagers.
7. How long have you been writing for CoolDudes Publishing?
I wrote about ten books with Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink Press, who are wonderful and with whom I had great experiences with. Then I got a little curious about other publishing experiences, and so I did my usual online research. I tried self-publishing, which I did with my YA Lesbian romance, Come To My Window. I really missed the support of having a publisher. One of my close author friends had just signed with CoolDudes Publishing, and I had a book ready and waiting, and so I submitted. Inclination, which was published in February. It was my first book with CoolDudes (YoungDudes is their YA imprint). Their support of a book that I felt was important to write about gay teen Christianity—maybe not the most popular topic in terms of sales but very necessary for LGBT Christians to have access to—meant the world to me. I loved the enthusiasm of this brand new publishing house and the knowledge that I am part of their very beginnings. So I submitted Love Spell, which is a book I think has a lot of potential to do well in the YA market, as it is humorous and romantic and contemporary and deals with gender fluidity, which has not often been written about in YA books. I have also signed a novella with CoolDudes, A Hard Day’s Night, which will come out this summer or early fall, and it has the unique YA voice of a teenage John Lennon-type character. Or at least that is how he sees himself. So I envision a long journey of writing with CoolDudes publishing, as it is working very well.
8. Finding literary agents isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you have representation, how did you go about seeking one?
I have sought representation in the past, and I received a great deal of interest in several of my books, but I never signed a contract with an agent. I really do not have the patience to wait as potential agents think about representing me. Once a book is finished, I just want to move on it. I want to find a publisher and get it out there. It is quite time-consuming to write queries and send sample chapters and queries and synopses to agents. I find myself unable to wait for the months it takes for responses. And I am very happy with the publishers I work with. If a potential agent becomes familiar with my work, I guess he or she could approach me and I would listen to what he had for an idea for me, but until then, I am happy with small presses.
9. I absolutely loved Chance César. How did you come to write such an in depth character?
Whenever I play a word game, such as “Mia, give me five words to describe your mother’s cooking”, I find that when I start, I just can’t stop. Soon I have fifty-five words about Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, and I feel like I’m just getting started. It’s exactly the same when I create a character. I come up with a basic mental sketch of him (Chance César)—gender fluid, snarky, likes perfume and cosmetics and bright-colored clothing, never-say-die attitude—and I soon get to know the character fairly well. But my mind won’t rest at that point. I start to think like him, in fact, I know everything he’d say or think or feel at any given moment. Multitudes of detailed and quirky thoughts pop into my head and I just have to write them down. After several weeks of doing this, my main character is planned “in depth.” As in, very, very deep. At this point, I know him well enough to tell you his story and make you believe it and feel it with him. And like the “making pretend” schoolgirl, doing this is pure joy for me. So why should I cut my characters short and not develop them well? It is like a hobby to this author!
10. Did you go to school to learn to write creatively or is this a hobby?
Writing is a hobby, but it is also my work. I went to Boston College and was a history major, and as such, writing research papers was a huge part of my college experience. But as a middle school social studies teacher, the job I accepted after I graduated, I discovered that my biggest passion was in creating the lesson plans. I spent so much time creating the lessons, that carrying them out was almost an afterthought. I think it’s just the creative part of me that had to surface, and in creating educational experiences that come ALIVE for kids I was creating something meaningful. (Someday, I would still love to create a book of lesson plans for middle school and high school English and history classes.) So, in college I used and improved my writing skills, but writing fiction is an act of love and it is truly a hobby that I put to work for me.
11. Self-publishing has made it extremely easy for literally anyone to publish his/her own words, do you feel it helps or hurts the writing industry?
I am very much into freedom, and so self-publishing allows for total freedom of written expression. I have been fortunate enough to find small presses who are eager to publish my work, but knowing that I have the right to self-publish, if I so choose, is empowering. I know I have options. Why should expression of the written word be limited to those who have come up with the best query or a who have a good contact in a publishing agency or have the most perseverance in sending materials to every agent under the sun? I think that anyone who has something he or she feels is worth saying and actually makes the effort to put it in a book should have the right to publish it. And only if it is good stuff—well-thought out, appealing to readers, presented professionally—will it actually be purchased and read in enough numbers to allow the writer, by way of repeat readers, to do this again. Freedom of expression is good for the publishing industry.
12. What is your greatest challenge when it comes to writing?
It is 100% the technical aspect of being a writer that is my greatest challenge. Social media and computers confound my mind and will always keep me as a slightly intimidated, and more than a little bit daunted, member of the writing world.
13. What type of author are you? The inspiration seeker or the inspiration finds you?
I am both. Often, inspiration finds me when I listen to lyrics of pop music. Or when I see a certain person walking on the sidewalk…. Or when I hear a story on the news that moves me…. I just know I have to create something to rekindle the feeling in my heart that I experienced at the very moment I encountered it. But sometimes I think it is fun and enlightening to search for inspiration. To study what is current with teens in terms of their struggles and their joys, to listen to the music that moves them, to search for personal stories of triumph and tragedy that I can expound upon. So, I will say that I find inspiration, and it finds me, in equal measures, depending on my mood, the day… and maybe even the way the wind is blowing.
14. Do you have other hobbies you enjoy doing?
I love to watch my kids do their activities—tennis, dance, basketball, track, soccer etc. I enjoy attending concerts at Meadowbrook, the local outdoor venue for live music, and I love to read. But the bulk of my “hobby” time is spent researching, writing, and promoting my novels.
15. Will there be a sequel to Love Spell?
I will write a sequel if Chance César is a huge hit and readers start asking for one!
Thank you so very much for welcoming me on your blog in promotion of my upcoming release, Love Spell, and allowing me to familiarize your readers with Mia Kerick.
NOTE: Now you see why I like Mia and have so much respect for her work. She's an amazing talent with a voice that is extremely refreshing. How could I ever turn down an author with this much class? Keep doing what you're doing, Mia, and trust and believe, I have faith that your fans are going to want a sequel. I know this fan does! Thank you for your time! My readers will undoubtedly be appreciative. I am very honored to have you! Come back anytime!
Website is www.miakerick.com
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Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer
It's nice coming clean with yourself. . .
Yes, I'm a Nerd, Word! (lol)